Jason Spidle is a Prime Digital Academy graduate and a developer at Foundry. He crowdfunded a loan to cover living expenses while he attended the coding bootcamp. We got to catch up with Jason to discuss his time at Prime, tips for aspiring developers, and his experience with WeFinance.
Bootcamp Corner with WeFinance is a regular series that looks at coding bootcamp students, their experience, and the lessons they’ve learned.
Are you considering a bootcamp but worried about the tuition or living expenses? WeFinance for Bootcampers is the fastest way to crowdfund a personal loan.
What were you doing before Prime Academy?
Before Prime, I was working in construction as a rain gutter installer and did some freelance writing — it was mostly low paying jobs.
What gave you the push to do a coding bootcamp?
I’ve been involved in a literary collective for the past few years that publishes online literary journals, books, and also hosts various events. As part of that, we were doing a lot of web stuff to feature our work, our writing, and the writing of others. This responsibility fell on my shoulders since I had an interest in coding. I ended up doing the front end development for Unwin-Dunraven Literary Ecclesia.
Since building websites was something I enjoyed, I wanted to see if I could make it my career. When I saw that Prime was taking applicants, I jumped at the opportunity.
Was it hard to adapt to the developer mindset?
I think, because of the way I approached development early on, it wasn’t hard. I am used to the trial and error process so I adapted pretty quickly to the Prime method. I was already accustomed to the idea that most programming is a lot of failure before you get a minor success — so when it happened at Prime, I wasn’t as discouraged as someone who was new to development might be.
Overall, it was a pretty smooth process.
How did you hear about Prime Academy?
This is actually something I’ve been looking for recently since employers have been asking me. The first day I mentioned Prime was in December 2014. The content of the message to my significant other was that I had applied to Prime. She responded, “Cool.” We subsequently talked about our weekend plans.
What was the biggest driver for you picking Prime?
Ultimately it was location since I have a 10 year old son in Minneapolis. Before Prime launched, I considered going to a bootcamp in Chicago, but once Prime launched (in December 2014), it was a no brainer.
Are a lot of Prime students from Minneapolis, or do people move from other states to attend it?
Most are from the area but it’s by design. There’s not a lot of tech talent in the Twin Cities but there’s a lot of tech jobs. They’re trying to get more people from the community involved.
What’s been your experience at Prime?
It’s been an amazing experience. Something Prime does well is focus on bringing more woman, minorities, and people with diverse backgrounds into tech. There’s a big focus on the social fabric of the development process and the importance of introducing different kinds of people from different backgrounds. It’s been a wonderful experience and a wonderful environment. It’s also amazing knowing that Prime is making a difference in the community.
There’s nothing I disliked. Financially, there were some difficulties since it’s impossible to have a job during the program, but WeFinance helped in this respect. The length of the program is also a challenge; it’s not just 18 weeks but there’s pre-work before the program and interviews after the program. it’s hard just disappearing from your everyday life and friends.
Do you have any tips for anyone considering Prime Academy?
The technical skills they expect you to have are pretty minimal. The main thing they’re looking for is passion for learning and technology. They also like people who have a different perspective on life, since it helps you approach tech in a new way.
Over the course of Prime, you work a lot on soft skills — being able to work with different people, teams, and environments. They also want to know that you can resolve conflicts in a good way.
What are you working on post-Prime Academy?
I’m joining Foundry, a local design and development company.
I kept running into the founders at coding meetups and had great conversations with them. When it came time to finding a job, I had already formed a great relationship with them. The interview only lasted 15 minutes and I didn’t even give them my resume ahead of time.
I believe the networking I did prior to the hiring process played a big role in getting the job.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?
The most challenging part was the financial element. It’s been a struggle to have enough money for expenses so I wish I had budgeted better.
Another big thing that I wish I focused on was physical activity. Coding is a very sedentary activity and I’ve definitely felt it in my body.
What was your experience with WeFinance?
I heard about WeFinance from Product Hunt around the same time I was accepted to Prime. At the time, I was thinking about how I could make borrowing money from friends and family more official. I looked into other crowdfunding websites but they’re more focused on physical rewards, not repayment. WeFinance was exactly what I was looking for.
Do you have any tips for creating a campaign?
My main goal was to demonstrate my enthusiasm and skills for building websites. I built a website specifically for the WeFinance campaign to show my interest and my skills.
The website broke down how I was going to spend the money, line-by-line, and I think this really resonated with my lenders. It was a way to show my skills at the time and to prove that my ambitions were achievable. It’s actually still up on my personal site!
Would you have wanted to offer rewards, like “create a landing page” to your lenders?
I definitely could see that being a good way to drive more engagement early on. I was actually considering doing this for some of my lenders, so having this plugged into WeFinance as a “perk” would be good.
What do you look for when considering financial products?
I look for ease of understanding of the financial product. I’ve actually been told that I have unusual financial practices; I don’t have a bank account and I just use prepaid credit cards since it’s very simple to understand and there are no hidden fees or overdrafts.
For me, something that’s straightforward and easy to understand is the most important thing to me.
Do you think you would use WeFinance in the future? For moving expenses, a rainy day expense, or a trip?
Definitely! I like the idea a lot since it basically creates a standardized way to borrow and lend money to friends and family. I see it having wider applications in communities and groups.
Would you lend to other Prime Academy students?
No question. Prime Academy has helped me a lot and I would love to help other students looking to improve their career prospects and lives.